Jun 14, 2017, 11:13:17 AM CDT Jul 10, 2019, 2:19:04 PM CDT

Dehydration can sneak up on athletes

Even mild dehydration can affect athletic performance. Watch for early signs of dehydration to keep young athletes safe.

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High school kids relaxing on bench in basketball court High school kids relaxing on bench in basketball court

All those sprints, laps and drills can take their toll on athletes, especially when the weather is hot. Athletes are at risk of dehydration if they don't get enough fluid. Fluids are needed to replace what is lost through the skin as sweat and through the lungs while breathing.

As a parent, you may be concerned by the stories about athletes collapsing on the field from dehydration and heat stroke. The experts at Children's Health℠ can help with advice on keeping your young athlete hydrated and healthy.

"Even mild dehydration can impact an athlete's performance," says Noel Williams, a registered dietitian at the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Sports Performance powered by EXOS. "It's important to drink plenty of fluids, before, during and after a workout."

How to prevent dehydration in athletes

To prevent dehydration, it's important that athletes drink plenty of fluids before, during and after a workout or game.

Have your child follow this hydration routine before they head to practice:

  • Pack a water bottle to school to drink between classes and during breaks so that they are well-hydrated before their workout.
  • Begin drinking water one hour before exercising.
  • Drink one ounce of water for every 10 pounds of body weight.
  • For tough practices, also drink 0.6 ounces for every 10 pounds of body weight in 20-minute intervals during exercise. A few examples:
  • A 120-pound athlete should drink 7 ounces every 20 minutes during exercise
  • A 150-pound athlete should drink 9 ounces
  • A 180-pound athlete should drink 11 ounces

Once they're on the field, your child should plan to drink often – ideally every 15 to 30 minutes. Sports drinks, juices and even sodas do provide some degree of hydration, but water is generally the best choice. However, if you expect to exercise for an hour or longer, sports drinks are better because they replace electrolytes that are lost as an athlete sweats.

Signs of dehydration in athletes

Even mild dehydration can affect your child's athletic performance and cause fatigue. Look for these signs to tell if a child is dehydrated.

Early signs of dehydration include:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased athletic performance
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Apathy
  • Irritability
  • Thirst

Signs of advanced dehydration include:

  • Dark urine
  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Decrease in reaction time
  • Decrease in physical performance
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Apathy
  • Disorientation

If your child has any of these symptoms, they should rest and drink water or sports drinks. If the symptoms don't improve, or if your child feels dizzy or faint and has limited or no urine output, take them to a doctor. Disorientation, inability to drink or pale skin may mean your child has a serious condition that should be treated as a medical emergency.

Learn more about thebenefits of hydration for athletes, and share this information with your athlete and family to stay healthy.

Learn More

The specially trained pediatric sports performance experts at Children's Health Andrews Institute Sports Performance powered by EXOS can help young athletes perform at his or her best, while remaining healthy and safe. Learn more about our sports performance program.

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Childrens Health